When Jane Bryant Quinn filed her first personal finance newspaper column in 1974, the Dow Jones average was in the mid-800s. The stock market benchmark edged over 1,000 a few times over the next decade, but each time it quickly fell back. It wasn't until December 1982 that the Dow passed and permanently remained over the 1,000 level.
"I must have written a column at least three or four times saying will the Dow ever pass 1,000," Quinn says. "Basically, from 1966 to 1983, the market went nowhere."
Over the past four decades, Quinn has been one of the most influential financial journalists in the country. Although she stopped writing her groundbreaking newspaper column in 2009, she still writes a monthly article for AARP Bulletin. And while the stock market has soared and dived several times since 1974, her readers' concerns have remained steady. No. 1 on the worry list: Having enough money for a secure retirement.
"Retirement is a job," Quinn says. "Most people don't do the kind of financial planning that needs to be done right on the cusp of retirement."
Quinn says there are two major jolts new retirees often face. "One is absolutely the money shock," she says. Quinn notes that while income drops, spending usually doesn't, especially in the first year of retirement as splurging couples sometimes leave a permanent crack in the nest egg. Quinn strongly recommends that couples see a fee-only financial adviser to counsel them on how much they can comfortably afford to spend and advise them on ways to help their money last longer.
Beyond the financial concerns, some retirees also face emotional upheaval. "The other shock in retirement is the identity shock," she says, as retirees struggle to find value in their lives now that their days are not filled with jobs and the camaraderie of co-workers.
When Quinn started her column, women were entering the workplace in record numbers. Many of those young women in 1974 are nearing retirement age today along with their spouses. Should both retire at the same time? Should one remain working to sock away more money for retirement? Suppose one spouse hates his or her job and wants to retire early? "It's a different dynamic with each couple," Quinn says, but the key is compromise and, most of all, constant communication. "Talk, talk, talk, talk to each other," she advises.